Hong Kong is a great place to visit. Even first-time travelers won't have a hard time navigating the city. It is fun to walk around Hong Kong without worrying about getting lost since you will always find an MTR station somewhere. It is also very easy to hail a taxi. The MTR stations have both English and Chinese maps. They also have a list of attractions with the corresponding exits.
Here are some of the things that you may want to know before visiting Hong Kong. I have arranged the list according to categories so you can jump to any section that you find interesting. With this, knowledge, rest assured that you'll have a smooth and trouble-free vacation!
If you have already visited the city and have some facts or tips you've picked up along the way, don't be shy to share it in the comment section! I'd be thrilled to hear from you!
Hong Kong is a small city with an excellent public transport system. Tourists never need to rent a car. Even if you're not driving, keep in mind that vehicles go on the left side. I almost got run over by a bus while crossing the street because I was looking on the other way.
Locals also drive very fast because Hong Kong is a fast-paced city and the people value their time. Vehicles are right-hand drive like in the UK.
During peak season, Hong Kong restaurants, cafes, and eateries are always jam-packed. I recommend eating ahead of time to avoid having to wait in line. That said, Hong Kongers are usually very efficient and fast so you don't have to wait very long.
Keep in mind that most staffs in restaurants and small eateries cannot speak English. Some have menus that are only written in Chinese. You may want to check the menu first that is usually displayed by the entrance before going in. Ordering in a family-style restaurant (the ones with big round tables covered with cloth) with no English-speaking staff is very difficult, even with the English menu.
There are many street food stalls in Hong Kong, especially in Causeway Bay and Mongkok district. Unlike in other Asian cities or countries, you don't need to worry about the food's cleanliness in Hong Kong. Hong Kong street foods are clean and are quite safe to eat. Even my mom's weak stomach gives a passing mark to the cleanliness of these delicious nibbles. My favorites are the pig intestines and the shrimp balls. I have never tried the stinky tofu, but many locals seem to like it. They say that the stinkier the tofu, the better.
Don't be surprised when the waitstaff cleans up your table during a meal. It may seem rude to foreigners, but they do it for efficiency and they do it to everyone, including local customers. Don't forget to bring tissue with you as most restaurants do not provide them. Most small restaurants also use chopsticks. If you don't know how to use them, learn to use them before you leave for Hong Kong. You can also bring spoon and fork with you if that's what you prefer.
The standard electricity supply is 200-220 volts. Bring a three-pronged plug adaptor for your electronic devices.
Women's dressing up cute is perfectly normal in this city. Ladies carrying bags with dangling trinkets are quite common. A lot of ladies wear skirts paired with patterned tights and boots with fringe or furry balls.
Even if Hong Kong is a part of China, wearing black is not a taboo in this city. You don't need to worry about putting on a black shirt or a black jacket.
Hong Kong MTR
An estimated 4 million people take the MTR train every workday. Despite the huge number of daily commuters, the trains are fast and efficient. They are spacious and have enough handlebars for everyone.
Unlike in other countries, it's safe to use your gadgets inside (or even outside) the train stations. It's common to see local commuters playing with their smartphones during a train ride.
There are no public toilets in train stations. When nature's calling, you can ask permission to use one of the toilets designated for the MTR staffs.
Look for the MTR Fare Saver machines. Swipe your Octopus card (Hong Kong's smart card) and you'll get a few dollars off your next ride!
There is a special Octopus card for senior citizens (usually 65 and above). It is also available for tourists. If you're a senior citizen or if you're traveling with one, be sure to avail it. The Octopus card for senior citizens is less expensive than the regular card. It can save you a lot of money especially if you use the trains frequently. I'm not sure if you can buy these cards in vending machines, but I usually buy them at the ticket booth for my parents. I never have trouble buying them and they never ask for my parents' passports. Only senior citizens can use this card. If you are not a senior citizen and you are caught using these cards, you will be given a hefty fine.
For a densely-populated city, the housing situation has always been a problem. Flats are very expensive. An apartment not bigger than 50 m2 is a typical space for a family of four. If you are considering staying with a relative or a friend living in Hong Kong, it is a good idea to find out if he has enough space for you and your travel buddies.
Hong Kongers speak Cantonese and many can speak Mandarin. Some locals can also speak English, to varying degrees.
Locals are very conscious of time. They walk and move fast. Speed and efficiency seem to be their top priority.
Hong Kong has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. That said, it is advisable to always stay alert and to avoid seedy areas.
The city has a free shopping bag ban, which means that you'll have to pay a small amount for each plastic bag that you use. As of this writing, this law is only applicable to supermarkets, convenience stores, and some boutiques.
Some stores like Bossini, Mannings and 7-Eleven accept Octopus card as a payment method.
Hong Kong has some of the most impressive shopping malls in the world. They are massive and house hundreds of stores. They are decorated according to a specific theme depending on the special occasion (e.g. Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day). Sometimes, the malls collaborate with other companies, such as Sanrio and Disney, and hold exhibitions featuring some of the well-loved characters.
Smoking in public places may cost you a hefty fine. Know the designated smoking areas before going to this city.
The water quality in Hong Kong complies with WHO's guidelines, so tap water is safe for drinking. Bottled water in Hong Kong is affordable, but if you're fine with drinking tap water, I suggest you to boil it first using the electric kettle provided in most hotels. Most hotels also provide complimentary bottled water. Some hotels are willing to give their guests extra bottles upon request.
© Rainy Kua 2016